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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Medicine                               187
cism of his craft, and he often disguised his more rational treat-
ment under a veneer of mystery, a method which has been
followed throughout the ages by his successors.
The very multiplicity of the prescriptions is of itself a con-
fession of their purely arbitrary and unscientific character; the
fact that numerous alternative prescriptions are provided for
each ailment implies that if one failed, another might be tried.
Thus the procedure in most of the medical papyri amounts
to this: Try A, or B, or C. An advance on this method is marked
by the treatment prescribed in the Chester Beatty Papyrus No.
6, where the plan is: Do A, then B, then C; that is to say the
prescriptions for each case were to be all employed in series
progressively, and not merely selected at will from many alterna-
tives. It is for this reason that I would place this text in the
Group I defined above.
§ iv. Anatomy and Physiology
The custom of embalming the dead in Egypt, involving as it
did the removal and handling of the viscera, had a profound
influence upon the growth of medicine, although it was not
carried out by physicians but was primarily a religious obser-
vance. Not only did the practice of mummification familiarize
the Egyptians with the appearance, nature, and mutual positions
of the internal organs of the body—opportunities that were
denied to all peoples who inhumed or cremated their dead—
but it made them acquainted with the preservative properties
of the salts and resins they employed for the purpose. The
custom provided for the first time opportunities for observa-
tions in comparative anatomy, for it enabled its practitioners
to recognize the analogies between the viscera of the human
body and those of animals, the latter long familiar from the
time-honoured custom of cutting up animals for food and for
sacrifice. It is a noteworthy fact that the various hieroglyphic
signs representing parts of the body, and especially the internal